Harald Atmanspacher: Contextual emergence of mental states from neurodynamics
Seminar given by Harald Atmanspacher from the Institut fuer Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene e.V. for the Redwood Center for Theoretial Neuroscience at UC Berkeley on April 15, 2008.
The concept of contextual emergence has been proposed as a non-reductive, yet well-defined relation between different levels of description of physical and other systems. It is illustrated for the transition from statistical mechanics to thermodynamical properties such as temperature. Stability conditions are shown to be crucial for a rigorous implementation of contingent contexts that are required to understand temperature as an emergent property. Such stability conditions are meaningful for contextual emergence beyond physics as well. They allow us to address a key issue in cognitive neuroscience, the relation between neurobiological and mental levels of description. For a particular class of partitions of the neurobiological phase space, so-called generating partitions, the emergent mental states are stable under the neurodynamics. In this case, mental descriptions are (i) faithful representations of the neurodynamics and (ii) compatible with one another. Numerical tests and experimental data will be shown to demonstrate the viability of the approach.